Friday, May 31, 2024

Triple features in the background

The local movie theatre used to run triple-features on Sunday nights in the early eighties, and I was far too young to stay out that late, but always dreamed of sitting in the movies for that long on a school night. By the time I could stay up as late as I wanted, it was the era of the multiplex, and there wree no more triple features. 

Now I have a triple feature session three nights a week, even if I barely pay any attention.

I've been working form home this year, doing the graveyard shift and finishing at midnight. I miss the buzz of a newsroom - even if there's only a single other reporter there, there's somebody to spark off - but I have been remarkably productive without the office banter (along with the need to prove that I can do the job efficiently and effectively with very little direct supervision).

I can't handle the quiet, though. The silence after the rest of the house goes to sleep, after the rest of the world is tucked up and snoozing. I tried listening to local radio stations, but there's something about the subdued tone of late night radio that makes it even worse.  

I will not, under any circumstances, do talkback radio.

What I do have is a small mountain of DVD movies, films I love but have seen dozens of times each, and can have in the background while I work, because I don't have to pay attention to them.

So DVDs that haven't been cracked open in ages are getting another run. All the Coens, all the Lynch, all the Scorsese. I don't need to keep an eye on Raising Arizona when I know every line by heart, man.

And unless there are some three-hour films (and they're fucking unavoidable), I can blast through three films a night, and end up with some weird triple features. I usually start with something funny or exciting, (but not too raw, because the kids are still awake), get through the middle of the shift with something heavy, and finish with a proper mind fuck, because proper mind fucks are always good in the midnight hour.

Sometimes there is a theme, like a Terminator night, or an evening with Kill Bill, but it's mostly random, the less thought I put into things, the less trouble there is. Tonight it's been Goodfellas and Dunkirk and Eraserhead, tomorrow it's probably going to be Patterson and Raw and Goodbye Pork Pie.

I've watched more than a hundred films like this in the past couple of months, getting through them so fast that I've burned through all the ones I brought down, have started pilfering the library's collection, (they don't even charge anymore).

I can still work when I'm watching The Thing, but can always take a micro-break for the really gross bits. It's more than just background noise, and loud enough to keep the quiet away.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

This is a metaphor for something

One thing that it is very important to know about me, is that I always thought I liked fried fish, but it turns out I just really like the batter.

This applies to many, many things in life.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Seeking thrillpower in every bookstore

I might have broken my complete collection of 2000ad by moving to a town that doesn't sell it, but I am honestly enjoying how much it gives me something to hunt for.

The galaxy's greatest comic used to be everywhere around here, but it's actually hard to find these days, so I just keep looking and buying it where I can. Every dairy, every bookstore, every grocery store. You never know, and I haven't been this driven to look at every meagre magazine rack since I started buying at comic book stores in the 90s.

The last couple of issues I found were at a Paper Plus in Cromwell. Cromwell! A small central Otago town that is now good for something more than getting submerged in a lake, because there is thrillpower lurking in those hills.

(Of course I could get it through the website, but there's no fun in that. There never really is.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Love and Rockets: She didn't remember me just now

The return to Palomar is Gilbert Hernandez's Love and Rockets comics in recent years is oddly free of nostalgia, but it is still reassuring to see the fictional town is surrounded by violent, weird shit.

Poor fucking Diana - she lost her sister in an awful tragedy years ago, and now she's lamenting a young daughter who drowned while away at summer camp. And while Luba might not be able to remember who Diana is because she was abducted by aliens, but it's still cutting to see her dismissed like that.

And she can't wander around her old running haunts without getting dragged into some kind of weird political violence, with dudes getting blasted in the skull and shot in the ass.

The violence is always funny in Beto's style, with wide eyed craziness and bendy bodies getting contorted in horrific bodily violence. It's always a laugh. 

Palomar is a town of warmth and humanity - it's surprising that Tipin' Tipin' is still wandering around with a shovel, unless he's one of the town's many, many ghosts - but it's also had some dark shit going down, especially around the edges of town.

In Beto's comics, the cycles of violence aren't just confined to that small town somewhere south of the border - Luba's half-sister is still masking up and beating the shit out of various scum in the streets - but as a small town that has frequently served as an apt metaphor for all the fucked up shit in the world, it's never lost its power to make the point. 

Monday, May 27, 2024

Comics in the sick bed

Getting stuck in a sick bed for a day or two is never anybody's idea of fun, but comics can make it a tiny bit better. Comics can always make things a tiny bit better, if you let them in.

I've always liked to read comics when I've been feeling crook - they usually don't take up a lot of brainpower, it's easy to dip in and out of the story when you can see what panel you're up to, and if the head is feeling particularly clogged up, you can just look at the pretty pictures.

Ever since I got my tonsils out when I was 5, and was insanely jealous of another kid in the ward who had Fantastic Four comics and I just had a bloody Beano or something, comics were there when I felt ill. 

Later in hospital for the one asthma attack I had, my Mum came in with the issue of 2000ad with the Mean Team debuting on the cover, and that was the best present anybody gave me during that stay, and reignited a long-burning obsession with the galaxy's greatest comic, one that is still burning.

Sometimes it can backfire, and can be a bit traumatic - during my last serious hospital visit a decade ago, I read the book about the making of From Hell, and I still haven't been able to crack it open again without smelling antiseptic and existential dread of physical woes.

It's not usually that serious, and I always read comics on my sick bed at home. I can still remember having the first issue of GI Joe on hand during one childhood dose of the flu, and getting through that lurgy with a dose of US military might.

The most recent dose of Covid in our house had me lying around in misery for a few days, and this time it was a reread of old Hellblazer comics that helped get me through it. The cheap thrill of reading these issues and reminding me of a time when I truly thought John Constantine was the best character in comics really did help, and seeing Constantine deal with all the legions of hell with style and wit is one way of getting over my own misery.

What else am I going to do? Just lie there? Not when I can read a comic book, and get away from it all for a while.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

I think this song will never end.

Doctor Who is 61 years old and I have been obsessed with it for two-thirds of that time, and I have not seen anything like this ever. Roll on, Doctor.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Life is so much easier to deal with when you are dead!

Peaky Blinders was often a deeply miserable experience, but always sparked into life when Tom Hardy's Alfie Solomons showed up, even after he got shot in the bloody head.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Then you went and gone.

Don't be stupid, I couldn't pick just one scene from the greatest 48 minutes of television ever.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

The lowest point of a disappointing career.

Slow Horses is a lot of fun on many levels, but nothing beats Gary Oldman giving his colleagues a pep talk.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Do ye want me to hole punch yer face?

I know technically this is from the movie of the TV show, but it's also got Spider-Builder!

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Fuck off with your ginger chips, Shaun.

Even the dopiest arseholes in a Shane Meadows series have more personailty than anybody in a thousand blockbusters.

Monday, May 20, 2024

From the very beginning.

Covid had come calling at our household again, and all I want to do this week is curl up into a ball and watch my favourite bits of British television. Come join me! (For the telly, not the virus.)

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Words of the Apes

I will ride or die for the original movies, and that final shot of the first movie shook me to the core when I first saw it when I was nine, but I just don't care for any of the modern Planet of the Apes movies. I guess I just like it when they're blokes in cool mask, rather than CGI emoters.

But I am so, so glad they have kept that logo from the originals, because you really can't improve on perfection- the extension of the L and the P, and the E running into the other letters. It's still groovy as hell, and something that just can not be improved by modern technology.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Man delights not me - Withnail and I's wrong ending

After recently reading Withnail & I: From Cult to Classic by Toby Benjamin - a gorgeous new book about the making of the brilliant movie - I'm once again convinced that the film's original ending would have been a terrible, terrible mistake, because it would have been a total fucking bummer.

As it stands, the film has one of the greatest endings in cinema - Withnail performing an immense Hamlet in the rain, an epic performance only seen by some wet and pissed-off wolves. He now knows, beyond any doubt, that he will never play the Dane, but he shows the uncaring world that he also knows he would have been fucking great, if given the chance.

Of course, anybody who knows anything about the making of Withnail & I knows this was not how the movie was supposed to finish - in earlier drafts, Withnail finishes his performance, heads back home, pours the last of his fine wine down the barrel of the shotgun from the farm and blows his bloody head off.

This was always a potential fate for the failed thespian, but that kind of finality is desperately not needed. We know Withnail isn't going to be the next Gielgud and that's he going to fade away into obscurity, he doesn't need to head it with a shotgun blast.

And, most importantly, it would have been an absolutely depressing way to end the movie. For all its depth and pathos, Withnail & I is still an outrageously fun story, with diamond dialogue and an intellectually thrusting attitude to life, and it does end on that high of a performance.

While they are completely different cinematic spheres, it reminds me of the last James Bond film, which ended with 007 making the ultimate sacrifice, and the last few minutes of the film were spent in mourning for the dead killer.

Which is just a bizarre fucking way for a James Bond film to end, who wants to walk out of the latest 007 on a downer? That's not what they're for, and fundamentally misunderstands the appeal of the super-spy's adventures. 

Nobody walks out of Withnail in a low mood. It can leave you pensive or morose, but it goes out on such a high, one that would have been fucked up the arse by a shotgun ending.

Thursday, May 16, 2024


These fucking ads, man. I'm still slightly traumatized by these public service television advertisements that aired on New Zealand television in the early 2000s, and I think everybody else who saw them on telly back then is as well.

They were designed to warn you of the dangers of accidents around the house, and they sure fucking did that. They would start off like all the other ads, with some shining spokesperson extoling the virtues of snack bars or bath heaters or paint, and then everything would suddenly go horribly wrong and they'd be lying on the ground, bleeding and broken, because the real dangers are always in the home.

The most infamous featured a perky mum who trips over some kids' toys and goes face first into a glass table, lying bleeding and whimpering on the lounge floor as her children continue to play happily outside, but there also needs to be special mention of the broken leg of another victim who tumbles down the stairs, which pokes at at an especially nauseating angle.

The actual events were horrific enough, but the lasting effect was that they made you a little bit scared of all the other ads as well, because no matter how innocuous they were, you were still just waiting for something horrible and unexpected to happen. Every single ad was tainted by these warnings, for years afterwards.

They worked, though, I can't climb a ladder without thinking of the guy who crashes to the ground (in one glorious unbroken shot). The horrific PSAs the UK produced in the 1970s - like the incredible Apaches - had a generation of kids terrified of farms and powerlines, and that sort of shock tactic was still going strong, well into the 21st century.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

A uniquely disgusting spit

The Death of Stalin is such a clever movie, which uses some of the worst people in modern history to say universal things about the use of power and influence, and features an all-time great performance in Jason Isaac's General Zhukov, but one of my favourite bits is when Rupert Friend spits on himself.

There's something so gross about it, such a huge gob of a thing, and the way it lands right on his hairline is particularly disgusting. But it's also immensely funny, because he's spitting on himself, and says more about dumb people doing dumb shit that only hurts themselves than a thousand lines of dialogue ever could.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Fight Club: They carried the Charles Atlas seal of approval

It was a film that hit just at the right place, at just the right time. I was 24 when Fight Club came out, right at the age where you can't use education as an excuse anymore, and really need to get out into the world, and then you find it's a cold place and you've got to get your kicks where you can, so of course I fucking loved that film.

A lot of it hasn't aged that well, with two decades of toxic masculinity feeding on the most intellectually sordid aspects of the story, but I still do love it. These days I'm more about the cinematic fun and games, and the sheer fucking charm of Pitt, Norton and Bonham-Carter, all peaking their tits off. 

But back in the day, I followed those threads into the Palahniuk books, and they were mostly a lot of fun (especially the one about the dude who worked at a colonial reenactment museum), but there was something about the official comic book sequel that really soured me on the whole thing, even if it was not as much as it wanted.

Written by Palahniuk, drawn by somebody who turned out to be a terrible person and published by Dark Horse, the Fight Club sequels were more narratively complex, but lost the simple pleasures of the whole thing in these new complexities.

And where it really lost me was in its own self-love with a horrible all or nothing meta attitude, where you either loved the ideas behind Fight Club enough to die for them, or loathed them enough to kill for them.

And Fight Club, whether it was book, movie or comic, was never that extreme. It really was just okay - nothing worth changing your life over, nothing worth getting properly angry about. There was an ocean of grey between those two extremes, and getting that worked up about it just seemed a little bit silly.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Some of the exact dates in life

There is something uniquely satisfying about nailing down the exact date of an old memory, and seeing exactly where it takes place in the vast tapestry of history.

I can even put a precise date on my very earliest memory in life - when my Aunty Val and Uncle Sol got married in late 1977, when I was nearly three years old. For years I thought it was either the birth of my little sister, or seeing the first Superman at the movies, but I now know they categorically came later. 

(I am now overly concerned over what the kids' earliest memories will be, since they are right in that age zone when those memories are formed. I'm fairly sure the 4-year-old will always remember the light show at a planetarium she saw more than a year ago, because she was dreaming about how poor Pluto was out alone in the infinite of space for a long time afterward. That's not a bad first memory, all thing considered.) 

Sometimes you can staple a personal life development to a big news event. We moved house when I was 9, from Timaru to Temuka, a distance of a whopping 13 kays, and I never, ever saw any of my old mates again. (I found one online the other day, and he's got a weird and impressive expertise that I'm too intimidated to say hello again. Sorry, Jamie.)

And I know that the move out to Temuka was on 14 July because that's when the NZ Labour Party won the 1984 general election. Big national events line up with big life changes.

Unsurprisingly, it's Doctor Who that helps me nail down some dates, because the transmission of episodes is one of those things the wider fandom have taken great delight in cataloging, and I can figure out the exact dates of my earliest Who memories, with much confusion over who was the real Who

None of this means anything to anybody but me, but if this ability to put exact dates on ancient personal memories is so personally satisfying, maybe we could all do with a bit more knowledge of where we were, in space and time, for a little while.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Bluey: You gotta watch this

I generally don't hassle my loved friends and families to watch certain TV shows these days. While I'm always happy to offer suggestions, people get to their own things at their own pace, and there is no need to rush them.

But I still totally peer pressured the lovely wife into watching the new episodes of Bluey that just dropped the other day. I have strong opinions about that silly kids TV show, but there is such a good joke right in the middle of the Surprise episode that only parents will get, I had to get the wife to watch it so we could share in the glory. 

The kids didn't get it, but thought all the running around was very funny. Everybody wins.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Bob Temuka's top five moments of remaindered comics bliss #1: The best of times with the Beard Hunter

The shift to the direct market and away from the newsstand might have saved the entire American comics industry in the 1980s, but I was living on the arse end of the world and absolutely nowhere near a comic store, so all that wonderful content were nowhere to be seen.

So when I was 16 and dying for more sophisticated suspense in my life, I could never see any of it. Watchmen was a weird reference about sugar cubes in the Johnny DC column, and when all the writers I had followed in 2000ad for years were making a splash in the US, I never got to see any of their comics. No Doom Patrol, no Shade the Changing Man, none of it.

And then I walked in to the bookstore at the Christchurch Airport, and there were examples of all of those things, and so much more, for $2 each.   

This was very early 1992, and it was the last time I ever saw a pile of remaindered comics, and it was the best of them all, because that was where I got my first ever issue of Sandman, and my first ever Doom Patrol.

They weren't easy comics to come to in such a cold way, the Sandman issue was the last chapter in the Season of Mists, so I had no idea what was going on, and the Doom Patrol was the issue with the Beard Hunter, and that was just a trip. But the craft was there, and they were funny and intersting in a way that usual superheroes really weren't.

And those comics were just a small part of a fascinating pile. There was also a bunch of the Armageddon 2001 annuals, and plenty of Superman comics from the exact period they started putting the little triangle numbers on the cover. I got the second issue of Twilight by Chaykin and Gacia-Lopez, and that was absolutely incomprehensible without the other two parts (it took me years to realise who all the characters actually were and their place in DC history).

This was more than 30 years ago now, and I still literally dream of finding a pile of comics that good again. That haul set me on a new course in the medium, one that I was more than happy to follow. It was the right comics, at the right time, and the greatest moment of remaindered comics bliss I've ever known.

Bob Temuka's top five moments of remaindered comics bliss #2: Star Trek and Super Powers distractions

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Life is full of big and horrible decisions when you are an adult, and I really do miss the days when my biggest dilemma was how many Star Trek comics I could get from a cold warehouse full of toys in Dunedin.

This might have been the biggest actual amount of remaindered comics I ever saw on one place, my increasingly dodgy memory remembers it as a massive shelf that was 20 issues deep, full of DC Comics published just before the Crisis reboot. It was in a toy warehouse that only lasted a few years, in a town I only got to visit every other holiday, and I only had eight bucks in pocket money.

Eight bucks could go a long, long way in 1987, but there were tough choices to be made. The same store had Super Powers action figures, including the magnificently insectoid Mantis, for $5, which meant I could only afford three comics.

After long deliberation, I got an issue of the Red Tornado limited series, and two issues of the DC Star Trek comic, set during the excellent Mirror Universe story in that comic. That was all I could get.

There was one bonus - my little sister bought a Amethyst comic, because she thought it looked cool, and that somehow got absorbed into her big brother's collection, and I somehow still have that now too. It wasn't mine to give away.

I got a good few years out of that Mantis figure - I still think that design is absolutely brilliant - but that disappeared somewhere down the years. I still got them Star Treks though, and I'm still not convinced I should have got the issue of Superman: The Hidden Years instead of the Red Tornado. Some things you never quite get over, no matter how much you agonised at the time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Bob Temuka's top five moments of remaindered comics bliss #3: Figuring out the new DC at the toy store

I was very, very confused by the post-Crisis DC universe, because I could only read tiny bits and pieces of it at first. I was more of a Marvel kid at the time, and DC's comics in this period felt weird and unusual to me, and I had only dipped a tiny toe into that strange new integrated universe.

So when a small pile of them appeared on a table at a local toystore, I was all over it. They were three or so years into the new universe, but it was the place to figure out what the hell was going on with characters like the Flash and the Huntress at that time.

They also had all the post-Byrne Superman I could eat, during the period he went into space and became a gladiator on Warworld, and that was easy enough to follow, because Superman was always easy to follow.

I still don't understand how a lot of the DC universe works these days, and it would take a lot more than  a small pile of comics to get the general idea. But it couldn't hurt.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Bob Temuka's top five moments of remaindered comics bliss #4: At the corner dairy with the Atomic Knights

When I only had a few years of school left, and starting to seriously consider going out into the world and getting a job instead of doing something stupid like entering higher education, I can't have ben that serious, because my ability to buy comic books was a major factor.

And when I was wondering what I was going to do with my life, what was really on my mind was how  once I got my first paycheque, I could buy all the $1 comics I could buy from the box in the front of the dairy down the main street of Temuka.

These were pure pre-Crisis DC comics at their finest, adventures in the final years of Earth-1. Most prominently, there were a lot of DC Comics Presents and Brave and Bold. It's no surprise that those are the only old Superman and Batman comics I still collect to this team, because they're full of random heroes drawn by the likes of García López and Aparo, and all that stuff is still the gold standard in my brain for simple superheroics

It's a few years ago now, and the only other things I remember getting was the Justice League of America comics where the Martians invaded, (the flashpoint event for JL Detroit), and falling for Gil Kane's art on some Action Comics issues and one of the Sword of the Atom specials.

So I figured that if I made the impossible sum of $100 a week, I could buy five of these comics every week, and I thought that would be heaven.

By the time I did get my first paycheque, that box was gone, and I didn't have remaindered comics to get, but I still put that first payment to good use - buying a TV aerial so I could pick up the transmission signal from Christchurch and I wouldn't miss season 3 of Star Trek The Next Generation. It was a different time, man. 

And since those days, most of the money I've earned has gone on boring things like rent and food, but if I could still get five $1 comics a week, I'd still be happy.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Bob Temuka's top five moments of remaindered comics bliss #5: Lost in the supermarket with the Nth Man

Of course the greatest moments in my life involve my wife and kids. As much as I have been obsessed with so many facets of pop culture, and comic books in particular, nothing compares to their laughter and joy.

But when it comes to sheer geek bliss, nothing - and I really do mean nothing - ever beat finding a pile of remaindered comics in some random store. Stumbling across the cheapest of four-colour thrills in large quantities could literally get me shaking with excitement.  

You don't really see them anymore, now that American comic books are a direct market thing, they don't seep out into the general population like they used to. But there were days where you would find them in supermarkets, toy stores and corner stores.

They were always great, because comics are so fucking expensive - we always paid about three times cover price, at the least, by the time comics got to our part of the world. So to see piles of the things for a buck apiece, flogged off by some distributor or something, was as good as it ever got.

They were often comics that never even appeared in the local bookshops. Not exactly brand new, but never read before. By the nature of their unsellable origins, they usually weren't the greatest comics - you never saw a Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen in these pile, but you could find some gems.

Like the time I went to the local supermarket I'd been to a thousand times before, and they had a stack of weird Marvel goodness sitting there. The only geek thing I'd ever seen in that store was the Return of the Jedi soundtrack vinyl in the early eighties, and suddenly there's the motherfucking Nam right there.

This was the very early 90s, and the unusual thing about this pile was that it was Marvel - for some reason, the remaindered comics were almost always DC. Not this time, it was full of things that nobody cares about anymore like issues of Shadowline, and post-Pitt New Universe titles (which actually got genuinely interesting when the world turned to shit).

They were not, by any measure, terribly good comics, but I was a fiend for anything I could get, and they were only fifty cents each, so I bought so many that I actually started giving a shit about D.P.7. 

There were no Spider-Man or Captain America or X-Men comics. Barely any actual Marvel Universe at all, apart from some Power Pack with some lovely Bogdanove stories and the Gerber She-Hulk comics with a young Bryan Hitch on art.

There was also some Nth Man, and you don't often get that kind of high octane zen craziness at the local store too often, so I was in with a grin.

The supermarket where I got those comics closed down last year, which is a pain in the arse, because our current house is just a couple of hundred metres away, and I could really use it. The building is deserted now, but I still can't help peeking inside, and looking for ghosts of cheap comics.